Natural Hair, Something Bigger Than Fashion

Certain expressions about hair type may often have a discriminatory tint and are sometimes overlooked. In this note, we want to show how this affects job and educational opportunities for some ethnic groups and what we can do to alleviate this problem.

The Woman Post | Valentina Ibarra

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According to Dove, black women are 80% more likely to change their natural hair to meet social norms and 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work because of their hair type. A negative bias towards texture and hairstyles attached to their cultures, such as braids, locs, and twists, has resulted in discrimination within their works.

The problem even begins during your education. Time Magazine reports on the cases of a Kentucky school that tried to ban dreadlocks, braids, and twists; a 16-year-old girl who was threatened with suspension for wearing braided hair extensions; and a 17-year-old who was told that she could not wear her afro at school because she was “faddish and out of control.” These are only three cases, but definitely not the only ones. This reflects an often overlooked problem that affects black girls across the United States.

Online communities have been forming on platforms like YouTube and TikTok, showing how to properly care for different hair types and the damage that can occur from chemical and thermal straightening. Help to set a positive example for girls, so that they see that their hair is normal and beautiful. Still, HuffPost shared stories of women who feel this move failed them because it focuses on transforming them into manageable curls and not loving textured hair. It shows that even within the community there is a problem adopting all types of natural hair, which should be a priority.

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That's why the National Urban League, Dove, Color Of Change, and the Western Center on Law & Poverty created the CROWN Act. It stands for “Create an open and respectful world for natural hair” and is already a law in 12 US states. According to the official website, it prohibits hair discrimination based on race, which is the denial of employment and educational opportunities due to hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists, or Bantu knots.

Still, a study by the Perception Institute showed that white women have the greatest bias towards textured hair, rating it as less professional and beautiful. The problem persists, even with the anti-discrimination law, because it is a cultural problem of perception of beauty.

Cultural change is not easy, but reconciliation with natural hair also comes from outside, as our actions could replicate the stigma. This does not mean that all black women should wear their hair only in the natural state, but rather that their style should be a personal decision based on which one they like best, not influenced by the possibility of not getting a job. Waves, dreadlocks, afros, straightening hair, and all the other options available should be treated equally, as options to choose from when experimenting with your hair. All hair can be professional, all hair can be beautiful.

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